Norfolk Island, an Australian territory in the South Pacific, has become the focus of a bun fight between Qantas (QF, Sydney Kingsford Smith) and Air New Zealand (NZ, Auckland Int'l).

The Australian carrier on March 19 began operating six B737-800 flights per week to the island, three from Sydney Kingsford Smith and three from Brisbane Int'l for an initial three months with a potential to extend longer, as part of a contract awarded to Qantas by Australia‘s government.

On the same day, Air New Zealand restored its A320-200N services between Sydney and Norfolk Island. Even though the island is an offshore Australian territory, it had, until recently, been serviced by Air New Zealand, which also used to operate three return flights per week to both Sydney and Brisbane.

However, Air New Zealand was forced to suspend its Norfolk Island services in late January after a COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland resulted in the temporary suspension of the one-way travel bubble between the two countries. This left Norfolk Island suddenly temporarily cut off from Australia, its biggest and, as it stands, sole tourism market.

While restrictions on Queensland travel remain in place, Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said in a statement the carrier will be unable to resume its services between Brisbane and Norfolk Island because its flight crews are unable to operate domestic services in Queensland without completing a 14-day quarantine period.

Norfolk Island is located between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Together with the neighbouring Phillip Island and Nepean Island, the three islands collectively form the Territory of Norfolk Island. At the 2016 census, it had 1,748 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 square kilometres.